Earth Week Q&A with Ashley Hart

The SEATOPIA Collective is a community of ocean-conscious foodies who believe in the power of food to positively change culture.  In a new series highlighting the valued members of our community, we’ll be sharing stories on our blog.  In honor of #EarthWeek we sat down with one of the newest members of the SEATOPIA Collective, Ashley Hart (@ashleyhart on Instagram), the ever-smiling Australian model turned Austin-based TV host, certified health coach, yogini, and entrepreneur, to talk about her journey, the sources of her inspiration, and deep love of our Mother Earth.

Could you start by giving a quick description of who you are and what you do? 

I am an Australian currently living in between Texas and LA. I was educated through the Rudolf Steiner school- so some could call me a little hippy kid, ha! I started working in the entertainment, fashion, and beauty industry at a young age. I was modeling overseas at 17 and all of a sudden felt like I had to look a certain way to fit into a box, as most of us do at that age. Yet living within the heavily ‘externally’ focused industry, it began taking a serious toll on my mental and physical health. I was almost forced by this contrast to look within. I stepped into a yoga class (it was all in German, being in Germany at the time) and it was in that class that I had my own first kind of awakening. I don't know exactly how it happened but I had a miraculous moment where I was able to create a level of separation between me and my thinking. I was able to look at myself in the mirror, see myself as the image I saw (and hear the terrible judgmental thoughts I had about myself), listen to the teacher speaking, think about the person next to me sweating on my mat, and hold a yoga pose - all at once. I was able to witness all of these things and spontaneously separate them from myself for the first time. It was then that I realized there is a higher awareness or simple something else than what I ‘think’, it was such a relief. This breath of peace and touch of ‘something else’ set me down the beginning of my spiritual path.

Still in the modeling and entertainment industry, I started studying yoga, reading books, and diving into a deeper level of consciousness (or this ‘space’ I had spontaneously stumbled upon). This underlies and infuses every aspect of my life now, it leads me to more deeply understand the meaning of true health, true beauty, and how to find sustainable happiness. I stopped working in the industry with any brands or companies that weren’t performing in an ethical or sustainable way - and celebrating ones that were.

My understanding of sustainability still has a long way to go yet it first naturally accrued by becoming more aware of the interconnection between all things and questioning the deeper layers of how it came to be. This was a huge turning point in my career. I am now building my own company based on the industry I came from but approaching beauty, wellness, our relationship with ourselves, and ultimately our relationship with the Earth - in a kind (sustainable) way. There is still so much for me to learn but I love working with companies and people creating great things from integrity, that are having a positive impact and ultimately learning from them as I do. 

Where do you draw inspiration for your work? 

I connect with my deepest element or aspect of Self twice daily. I do Vedic Meditation. First learning this technique nine years ago with my Teacher Jeff Kober (@jeffkober) - significantly elevated my ability to touch upon the underlying field of consciousness I had a taste of. It allows me to feel naturally aligned to everything and for everything to flow more ease-fully. When I'm in that place of connection, I naturally take inspiration from my environment, because I genuinely feel so connected to it.

So it can be as subtle as wildflowers in Texas, which are so beautiful right now. Or it could come from the people I meet. There is something to say about "being in the right place at the same time" when we’re truly present, inflow, or connected (call it what you will), that inspiration feels endless. I ask Nature to show me the way, saying "use me" - where would you have me be, what would you have me say, what do I need to do, etc. So to not only be inspired but be guided and feel of purpose within that. This practice also gives me more of an ability to listen and have a conversation with myself (a closer relationship with my intuition). My goal is always to create anything that I do from a deeper place of listening. 

What brands or people keep you inspired?

Well, I'm genuinely and not just saying this because we're speaking - I am really excited to have found Seatopia. I've gone through the back and forth on whether it’s easier just to be plant-based because I wouldn't have to think about choosing the right things to eat all the time. I was thinking, well, I don’t really know enough, maybe it's just easier to take it out of my life period. I’ve felt that way with fashion as well, and admittedly still find myself taking that approach sometimes. I pretty much only buy vintage and second-hand. I haven’t bought anything new for years. Even in our Texas home, everything is sustainable in the way that it’s all second-hand. Yet the true answer to this question (when I’m not being lazy or falling short to the safety of just consuming less "new"; or eliminating products for a lack of understanding) is to continue to educate myself - this is what keeps me inspired and finding amazing people and brands.

The best way to do this is to ask a lot of questions- when I don’t know the answer. When I found Seatopia, I reached out and initially pushed back on their farm-raised fish approach, as it was a red flag for my boyfriend and me - yet at the same time, I loved the look of what Seatopia was doing in so many other ways. They were crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s on everything - down to sustainable packaging and moon cycle harvesting - so I reached out and got answers. While the fish may be farmed in a controlled environment, they feed and protect the fish in a very thoughtful way that makes them different from the “factory farmed fish” most people know. This initial push back (which I find myself doing with a lot of brands) is the best way to actually learn, stay inspired, and align with people really reinventing the wheel. Long story short, I feel really grateful to have found Seatopia, not only to be able to eat the most incredible tasting and ‘good for you’ seafood but for being a part of a community that could change the way of the whole fishing industry - if we’re willing to ask the questions and continue to learn, as I am inspired to continue to do with you.

Could you describe your philosophy when it comes to what you eat? 

I've come from a background of being really strict. I would deprive myself of nourishment - trying to be thin, so I haven't had the healthiest relationship with food in the past. What I now find most important (and a big part of my healing) is to understand every step the food took to get to my plate. 
I love bringing awareness to the way it was planted, grown, harvested, and cooked. I do this by taking a moment of pause and giving thanks (saying grace) before I eat-  bringing awareness and gratitude to every step of its creation. This naturally has me wanting to eat as local and seasonal as possible, supporting local farmers, and staying away from overly processed foods. However, if you don’t have access to those foods and can’t shop that way, I find putting intention into the food is the most important part (or at least a great first step). I believe we receive the love and energy we put into our food. 

I see you’ve started cooking a lot recently! What has been your favorite fish to cook in the Seatopia box and how do you prepare it? 

It’s all soooo good. I love the Halibut - I've been whipping up some pretty epic ceviche (which I hadn't made before). I love how all the seafood is sushi-grade and can be eaten raw. It keeps the integrity of the fish but also makes the food (and my cooking skills I may add) feel really fancy and taste delicious. It inspires me to want to try new ways of cooking because it’s all so beautiful. I feel so grateful for the way it is farmed and just love that it gets delivered straight to my door every month. I love setting intentions around the full and new moon cycles, so this time feels double special having the harvest timed with these cycles. It really inspires me to honor the fish, experiment, and make it look and taste beautiful. It’s having an amazing ripple effect. 



What is your favorite way to spend time on Earth?

Just recently, I was feeling really overwhelmed. I didn't know where to go or what to do. I knew I needed to switch off, so I turned off my phone (for one whole day and night) and jumped in our little VW van, drove past Malibu, and just kept driving...I ended up at one of the coastal beaches with no one else around. I slept out in the van that night. I couldn't believe the difference it made. It was such a powerful reminder of how necessary this is and reignited my gratitude for simply being in nature. There is nothing I love more than disconnecting from the busy world and connecting back in with nature. It makes me feel brand new. Today, I did yoga out on our jetty here in Texas, out in the water. Anywhere that I’m in nature, not distracted and super present with the environment, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for how great it is to be on Earth. I just feel instantly at peace, in love, and grateful. 

What is your favorite memory of being in the ocean?

Admittedly, I just learned to surf, this last year (at the beginning of the pandemic) and I have had a new appreciation for the power of the ocean. It roughed me up a lot and I feel tiny amongst the grandiosity and power of the ocean. Yet when I finally stand up and catch a wave and feel like I'm in sync with the grandiosity - I don't think there's been a better feeling to date. There was this one wave early on, maybe my third wave, I really felt it was way bigger than I probably should have been going for, but I thought “okay, either catch it or die, haha” and I caught it! It was such a good feeling.

If you could be any sea creature, what would you be and why?

Nemo, because I love adventure.

How will you be celebrating earth day this year?

I don't have any plans yet but this conversation has inspired me. My boyfriend and I love going on long hikes, I’ve been meaning to plan one. I’m going to plan an Earth Day hike. I also feel really grateful to be having this conversation- so that we have this and it can be shared. Hiking, connecting with nature, giving thanks, being grateful, and blasting out Seatopia awareness, that’s what I’ll be doing.

 Ashely Hart Womens Health 

We feel so grateful for the opportunity to build a community at SEATOPIA that includes people like Ashley Hart.  We all don't have to be professional Chefs to experience the joy of cooking and the benefits of cooking with sustainable farm-to-table ingredients  As #EarthWeek continues, we will be highlighting a few more of our incredible community members. Keep a lookout for more!  And let us know if there's someone you think we should interview.  It truly takes a community, your feedback is appreciated!